Sunday, October 7, 2012

Water Wings

So, I have long had a prejudice against water wings. I believed that water wings inhibited a child’s ability to learn how to swim. I believed that they were a crutch. I don’t know if I read this somewhere or came up with it on my own, but I have believed this for a long time, maybe since I taught swim lessons myself, 24 years ago.

I also believed they gave parents a false sense of security when their children were in the water. I was—and am—of the opinion that unless you are absolutely 100% certain that your child can swim, then your attention should be 100% trained on your child while they are in the pool, whether they are using a flotation device or not.

Enter, incredibly freezing swimming pool that Dad doesn’t want to get into. Also, enter, for unknown reasons, a softening on my position. I am making a conscious effort not to say not to my boys just for the sake of saying no. It is easy to automatically deny them many of their requests. Maybe because there are so many of them throughout the course of a day. To acquiesce to all of them would require a level of service beyond even the fanciest five star restaurant. That is why today when they asked for jelly beans at 10:00, I gave them to them. I couldn’t think of a good reason not to, and they had just accompanied me on a four mile run in the double-jogger. And when they asked me for Lucky Charms for a snack ten minutes before I was going to put dinner on the table, I said yes to that, too. Maybe because I am a push-over or maybe because I knew they had just come out of the pool and were starving.

So, when Sam asked to wear the water wings today, the confluence of my not wanting to leap into our freezing cold pool (I ended up jumping in anyway, hoping Petey would swim with me, only to be denied) and not finding a really good reason to say no, I helped him slip the water wings on and set him free.

What followed was nothing short of euphoric. Sam was swimming. In his mind, he was free. He splashed up and down the pool acting like a wounded dolphin that had been nursed back to health at Sea World and released back into the wild. “This is so FUN!” he exclaimed more than once. To Sam, he was swimming, and who was I to tell him any differently. He was swimming, for all intents and purposes and in every way that mattered. If swimming is not drowning, then that’s what he was doing. Moreover, he was having fun which is all that really matters anyway.

I am a swimmer and so naturally wanted Sam to be, too, but never pushed him too hard. I knew he would learn some day and knew, too, that he would have to get there on his own, when he was ready. I knew too well that if I pushed too hard, I could achieve exactly what I hoped to avoid, and drive him from the sport. And in Sam’s world, he took a big step today. He had to learn to trust the water wings before he could learn to trust himself. 

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